The Astros didn't care who they faced in the World Series. They were still too excited about actually being in the Fall Classic at all. They came into the Series with the worst record since the 2000 New York Yankees (who won) but the Yankees had the benefit of experience, having been in three of the previous four classics. Only four Astros had played in the World Series before.
And while the Astros avoided looking like the equivalent of the Washington Generals when the Boston Red Sox broke their 85-year Curse of the Bambino the previous year, their World Series opponent had their own championship drought to overcome. The Chicago White Sox hadn't won it all since 1917, two years before the infamous Black Sox World Series of 1919 when some Chicago players threw games to the gamblers. The last time they had won the American League pennant was 1959, three years before the Astros (then known as the Colt .45s) played their first game.
The White Sox flew under the radar during the regular season, logging a 99-63 record while all the talk centered around the Yankees and Red Sox of the East and the Angels of the West. The Sox were led by a quartet of starting pitchers who peaked at the right time. Jon Garland (18-10) was joined by Mark Buehrle (16-8), Jose Contreras (15-7) and Freddy Garcia (14-8) who had just handcuffed the Angels in five games.
Paul Konerko was the team's top slugger with 40 homers and 100 RBIs but nine players hit 10 or more homers and the team had a knack of hitting in the clutch. Among their leaders were outfielders Jermaine Dye and former Astro Carl Everett along with third baseman Joe Crede.
There was excitement throughout the South Side of Chicago at the thought of ending their long hex. They weren't intimidated at all about playing the Astros. Not even when the scene moved to Texas for the first time in World Series history.
CHICAGO - It was the moment Astros fans had awaited for 44 seasons, a moment ripe with potential for greatness and the flair for the dramatic. However, there was no fairy-tale ending to the first World Series game in Astros franchise history on Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
Given numerous opportunities to produce in the clutch, the Astros couldn't take advantage as the Chicago White Sox won Game 1 of the 101st World Series 5-3. The highly anticipated matchup between former Yankees Roger Clemens and Jose Contreras wasn't much of a pitching clinic, especially after Clemens' strained left hamstring forced the Astros to dig into the bullpen after only two innings. Despite Clemens' absence, the Astros remained close and had more than enough opportunities to win before a sellout crowd of 41,206.
Trailing 4-3 in the eighth, the Astros mounted their last threat when Willy Taveras hit a leadoff double off the left-center field wall, prompting Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen to call on lefthander Neal Cotts to flip the switching-hitting Lance Berkman to the right side. Berkman greeted Cotts with a single to left, putting runners at the corners. Cotts struck out Morgan Ensberg and Mike Lamb before giving way to righthander Bobby Jenks.
"I think the difference was that I didn't hit those guys in at third base," Ensberg said after going 0-for-4 overall and 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position. "I felt like obviously there were opportunities there."
With Jeff Bagwell at the plate, Chris Burke was sent to run for Berkman at first. In the lineup for the first time since May 3, Bagwell accepted the start as the Astros' designated hitter after manager Phil Garner guaranteed him that he wasn't given the nod only for sentimental reasons.
"I've been trying to use him in situations where we had a chance to win ballgames," Garner said. "I'd actually entertained the thought that if we ever got the lead somewhere down the road that was a big enough lead, I'd just leave him in at first base where throwing wouldn't be a factor. That way he could get a couple of at-bats. I was never able to do that. Not only that, this is the World Series, and it's great to have Baggy in the lineup."
But Bagwell was overpowered by Jenks and struck out to end the inning.
The White Sox weren't as forgiving in the bottom of the eighth against righthander Russ Springer when Scott Podsednik hit a two-out, RBI triple to increase their lead to 5-3.
Foiled by the left-hamstring problems that have plagued him since September, Clemens gave up four hits and three runs with one strikeout while lasting only two innings. Clemens, who threw 35 of his 54 pitches for strikes, had his shortest outing since he threw one inning on June 14, 2000. Lefthander Wandy Rodriguez, who took over in the third and gave up one run on four hits and five walks in 3 1/3 innings, was tagged with the loss.
Contreras got the victory after holding the Astros to three runs on six hits with two strikeouts in seven-plus innings.
With two outs in the first inning, Jermaine Dye ripped Clemens' 3-2 pitch an estimated 383 feet over the right-field wall to give the White Sox a 1-0 lead. Lamb tied the score in the second inning with a 405-foot homer to center.
The White Sox countered in the bottom of the inning. Former Astro Carl Everett led off with a single up the middle. With Everett in motion, Aaron Rowand put runners at the corners with a chopper through the right side.Everett gave the White Sox a 2-1 lead on A.J. Pierzynski's fielder's-choice grounder to first. One out later, Juan Uribe hit an RBI double to center.
The Astros got those runs back in the third. Brad Ausmus led off with a single to right. After Adam Everett hit a fielder's-choice grounder back to Contreras, Craig Biggio singled to center. After Taveras sacrificed, Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen visited Contreras on the mound. He had barely settled back into the dugout when Berkman ripped a two-run double to right, tying the score at three.
White Sox third baseman Joe Crede broke the tie with a solo homer over the left-center field wall in the fourth.
Taveras led off the sixth with a double to center and reached third on Berkman's groundout to first. Contreras left him there by getting Ensberg to ground to third and Lamb to second.
The Astros failed to capitalize again in the seventh. One out after Contreras hit Bagwell to start the inning, he hit Ausmus. That threat died with Adam Everett's fielder's-choice grounder to short and Biggio's grounder to third.
Game 2 at Chicago - White Sox 7, Astros 6
Sunday, October 23rd
CHICAGO - Righthanded relievers Dan Wheeler and Chad Qualls could only watch in dismay from the visitors' dugout, suffering right along with Astros closer Brad Lidge as Scott Podsednik ripped a shot through the chilly air at U.S. Cellular Field.
Not long after the Astros scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning to tie the score, Podsednik hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the inning to give the Chicago White Sox a 7-6 victory on Sunday night in Game 2 of the 101st World Series. Podsednik's shot was only the 14th walk-off homer in World Series history and the first since Alex Gonzalez hit one in Game 4 of the 2003 World Series for the Florida Marlins against the New York Yankees.
Called upon to protect a two-run lead in the seventh inning, the Astros' bullpen crumbled. And Houston still awaits its first World Series victory in franchise history.
After reaching the World Series for the first time in their 44th season, the Astros appeared primed for victory when lefthander Andy Pettitte gave his bullpen a 4-2 lead to protect before a rain-soaked sellout crowd of 41,432. But Wheeler and Qualls gave it all back and more to the White Sox, who lead the best-of-seven series 2-0.
Morgan Ensberg gave the Astros their first lead of the series with a leadoff homer to left field in the second inning off lefthander Mark Buehrle. The White Sox countered against Pettitte. Aaron Rowand hit a single through the left side, where the ball took a bad hop on Ensberg. A.J. Pierzynski followed with a single off the left-field wall.
Joe Crede tied the score with a bloop single toward the line in shallow right field. Juan Uribe followed with what the official scorer ruled a fielder's choice after the ball bounced off second baseman Craig Biggio's glove in shallow right field. After the official scorers discussed whether or not to give Biggio an error, the play was ruled a fielder's choice (right fielder to shortstop) because Jason Lane alertly picked up the ball and threw Crede out at second.
Willy Taveras hit a one-out triple to right in the third and tied the score at 2 on Lance Berkman's sacrifice fly to center. The Astros put another runner in scoring position when Brad Ausmus led off the fifth with a double off the third baseman's glove. After Biggio grounded out, Taveras hit an infield single to short. Berkman gave the Astros a 4-2 lead with a two-run double to left.
The White Sox mounted a threat on Wheeler, beginning with Uribe's one-out double to center. One out later, Tadahito Iguchi walked. Wheeler fell behind 2-0 to Jermaine Dye, who took the next pitch for a strike. The next pitch was up and in, putting the count at 3-1.Dye fouled back the next two pitches and eventually reached base when plate umpire Jeff Nelson ruled that an inside 3-2 pitch hit him. Replays indicated that the ball hit the barrel of Dye's bat without hitting Dye, but Garner's mild protest got nowhere.
With the bases loaded, Qualls was called in from the bullpen. Paul Konerko ripped Qualls' first pitch to left for a grand slam. Although Qualls delivered the pitch Konerko roped for the grand slam, Wheeler presented the appetizers that led to such a nauseating experience for Astros fans everywhere Sunday night.
Bobby Jenks, who had shut the door on the Astros in Game 1, couldn't protect the lead in the ninth. Jeff Bagwell, who struck out on Jenks' 100-mph fastball with two men on in the eighth inning Saturday, greeted Jenks on Sunday with a leadoff single to center. One out later, Chris Burke drew a walk. After Brad Ausmus grounded out to first, pinch hitter Jose Vizcaino tied the score at 6 with a two-run double to left as third base coach Doug Mansolino waved Burke in for the close play at the plate. Burke's left hand just barely avoided the tag at home, but the excitement in the Astros' dugout died down soon after Lidge gave up Podsednik's homer.
"We're certainly not in a good spot," Garner said. "We had a chance to win this ballgame. As badly as we played, we had a chance to win."
Game 3 at Houston - White Sox 7, Astros 5 (14)
Tuesday, October 25th
HOUSTON - Texans waited 44 seasons to have their first World Series game in the Lone Star State, and they must wait at least one more day for the Astros to win in the Fall Classic.
Former Astro Geoff Blum hit a solo home run in the 14th inning to lead the American League champion Chicago White Sox to a 7-5 victory on Tuesday night in Game 3 of the 101st World Series at Minute Maid Park. With two outs in the 14th, Blum ripped Astros rookie Ezequiel Astacio's 2-0 pitch over the right-field wall, pushing the Astros to the brink of elimination.
"I just can't explain what it feels like to hit a home run in the World Series, let alone hit a game-winning home run, especially in a game that hard and that we played that hard," Blum said.
The White Sox added another run, but Blum's shot was the one that sent a pall through what was left of the sellout crowd of 42,848.
The Astros, who saw ace righthander Roy Oswalt give up five runs in the fifth to lose a 4-0 lead, trail the best-of-seven series 3-0. The Astros had only one hit after the fourth inning. They left 15 men on base.
The 2004 World Series champion Boston Red Sox are the only team to win a postseason series after falling behind 3-0, accomplishing the feat against the New York Yankees last season in the American League Championship Series. The National League champion Astros have overcome countless obstacles this year while becoming the first team since the 1914 Boston Braves to go from 15 games under .500 to the World Series.
They say everything is bigger in Texas. Now they can officially say they play World Series games longer here, too, because Game 3 equaled the longest game in World Series history. The Red Sox beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in 14 innings in Game 2 of the 1916 World Series. But in terms of time, Tuesday's was the longest in Series history at 5 hours, 41 minutes, surpassing the previous record of 4:51 set during Game 1 of the Subway Series between the New York Yankees and Mets on Oct. 21, 2000.
At the end, it came down to a fastball Astacio left up for Blum.
Leading 4-0, Oswalt labored through the fifth inning as the White Sox scored five runs while sending 11 batters to the plate. He was saved from the decision when Jason Lane hit a two-out RBI double to left in the eighth.
White Sox righthander Jon Garland gave up seven hits and four runs (two earned) with two walks, four strikeouts and a home run. He got a no-decision when his bullpen failed to hold the 5-4 lead in the eighth.
The night started of well for the Astros. Craig Biggio led off the game with a double to left, collecting the first World Series hit in the state of Texas at 7:47 p.m. One out later, Lance Berkman gave the Astros a 1-0 lead at 7:51 p.m. with a single to left.
Shortly after Adam Everett led off the third with an infield single to short, he was almost caught stealing. He escaped when shortstop Juan Uribe hit him with his throw to first. Given a reprieve, Everett advanced to second on Oswalt's sacrifice and scored on Biggio's RBI single through the right side at 8:25 p.m. One out later, Berkman singled to right. Morgan Ensberg's single through the left side made it 3-0.
Lane gave the Astros a 4-0 lead with a leadoff homer to left-center field in the fourth inning, delivering the first World Series home run in Texas exactly an hour after Biggio delivered the first hit.
Chicago countered with its five-run rally in the fifth when Oswalt needed a career-high 46 pitches for one inning. Joe Crede led off with a homer to right. Uribe followed with a single to center. After Garland struck out, Scott Podsednik singled through the right side.
Tadahito Iguchi cut the Astros' lead to 4-2 with an RBI single up the middle. Jermaine Dye made it 4-3 with a blooper to center. Oswalt retired Paul Konerko on a fly out to center for the second out, but A. J. Pierzynski gave the White Sox a 5-4 lead with a two-run double to right-center. Aaron Rowand followed with a walk, bringing Crede back to the plate. Oswalt hit Crede with a pitch, loading the bases. He escaped further damage on by inducing Uribe's fly out to right.
The Astros had a chance to win in the ninth but stranded the bases loaded. Righthander Orlando Hernandez walked three, but Ensberg struck out to end the inning. They also stranded two in the 10th, two in the 11th and two in the 14th.
Game 4 at Houston - White Sox 1, Astros 0
Wednesday, October 26th
HOUSTON - Time finally ran out on the Astros' most improbable and historic season, ending Wednesday night in Game 4 of the 101st World Series as the Chicago White Sox completed a four-game sweep at Minute Maid Park to end Houston's first appearance in the Fall Classic.
By sweeping the World Series 4-0, the American League champion White Sox won the title for the first time since 1917. Only the Chicago Cubs, who have not won a World Series since 1908, have waited longer than the 88 years the White Sox went between titles. The National League champion Astros became the first team swept in its first World Series appearance.
"It's tough to get swept in the World Series," closer Brad Lidge said. "They did an unbelievable job of pitching today, obviously. We congratulated each other. No one's hanging their head on this season.
Lidge took the mound before a sellout crowd of 42,936 with the game scoreless and gave up Chicago's run on World Series Most Valuable Player Jermaine Dye's RBI single up the middle in the eighth inning.
Astros righthander Brandon Backe and former Astros prospect Freddy Garcia each threw seven scoreless innings in an impressive pitchers' duel. Backe held the White Sox to five hits while striking out seven. Garcia held the Astros to four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts to earn the victory.
The Astros had learned to believe they could overcome tremendous odds in this season of improbable comebacks, but they couldn't rally while going 0-for-11 and striking out five times with runners in scoring position Wednesday night. They left nine men on base.
"I don't enjoy it," Jeff Bagwell said. "I wanted to be the last team standing, but these things happen. It's a tough game. It's tough to win. It's obviously tough to get to the World Series, and it's tough to win a World Series."
In time, the Astros will appreciate the astonishing feat they accomplished by reaching the World Series in a season many experts thought would be a rebuilding effort after the team lost sluggers Jeff Kent and Carlos Beltran from the 2004 squad that went to the National League Championship Series.
The Astros fell to 15-30 on May 24, creating doubts about their season inside and outside the clubhouse. They responded with the best record in baseball throughout the rest of the regular season to win the wild card, becoming the first team since the 1914 Boston Braves to go from 15 games under .500 to the postseason in the same year.
After beating the NL East champion Atlanta Braves in the Division Series, they avenged last year's heartbreak by toppling the NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Championship Series to reach the World Series.
"We're disappointed that we didn't win; don't get me wrong," said Craig Biggio, who has spent a franchise-record 18 seasons in Houston. "It's something that we wanted to do. That was the ultimate goal. Once you're here, you might as well win it."
The White Sox outscored the Astros in the Series by only six runs, 20-14, and no game was decided by more than two runs.
"I think if you look at the way the games went, it was just the little things here and there," Biggio said. "They caught a couple of breaks, and I think it was more their destiny than it was ours."
The Astros had their chances, and they lamented the opportunities they wasted. It will take awhile before they get over the disappointment, but nobody can say Houston has never been in the World Series.
"It's been a marvelous season," Astros owner Drayton McLane said. "Our desire is to go to the World Series. We've done that, but it was also to win. We have those two objectives then to make a positive difference in Houston.
"But the one missing piece is to win the World Series. So we're going to start working on that early in the morning."
Information for this page was compiled from Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox media sources, Houston Chronicle reports and Retrosheet.org.